In Skin Cancer, Skin Care

Purchasing and applying sunscreen may seem straightforward. As long as you are using sunscreen like your dermatologist recommends, what could go wrong? The answer: a lot!

Not all sunscreens are created equal. The type of sunscreen you use and how you apply it make a huge difference in its effectiveness. You may not be as protected from the sun’s harmful rays as you think. With sunscreen use being the number one way to prevent skin cancer, you want to be sure you aren’t making these mistakes when it comes to protecting your skin this summer.

Mistake #1: You aren’t looking at labels

One of the biggest mistakes people make when buying sunscreen is not reading the labels before making a selection. It’s important to check product labels and understand the ingredients. First, always look for a “full-spectrum” or “broad-spectrum” sunscreen. Using broad-spectrum sunscreens ensures you are getting full protection from the sun as they block both UVA and UVB rays. When it comes to ingredients, avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, which can cause allergic reactions. Instead, choose products that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in their active ingredients.

Mistake #2: You aren’t using a high enough SPF

It’s easy to grab sunscreen from the shelf at the drugstore without thinking too much about it. But if you’re not getting a high enough SPF, you could be putting your skin in danger. When looking at the options, be sure to check the SPF. Our dermatologists at Columbia Skin Clinic recommend using a 50 SPF or higher sunscreen, which blocks out 98% of the sun’s rays.

Mistake #3: You don’t apply enough

The American Academy of Dermatology states that people generally don’t use enough sunscreen to protect their skin completely. In fact, most people only use about 25% to 50% of the recommended amount. In order to adequately cover your entire body, adults should use one ounce of sunscreen, enough to fill a shot glass.

Mistake #4: You apply sunscreen too late

Even if you are using the adequate amount of sunscreen, you may be applying it too late to enjoy its full protection. It takes a full 15 minutes for sunscreen to be completely absorbed into your skin. This means you should apply sunscreen BEFORE going in the sun so that you are fully protected at all times.

Mistake #5: You think your sunscreen is waterproof

Regardless of what the label says, no sunscreen is waterproof, and manufacturers aren’t technically allowed to make those claims on labels anymore. You may find a sunscreen that is “water-resistant” for 40 to 80 minutes, but pay attention to the label so that you can reapply before the water resistance wears off. Even if you are not in the water, always reapply sunscreen at least every two hours if you are in the sun for an extended period.

Mistake #6: You wear environmentally-harmful sunscreens in the ocean

When going to the beach, don’t wear just any old sunscreen in the ocean. Studies have revealed that certain ingredients in chemical sunscreens are wreaking havoc on the world’s coral reef populations. When heading out on a snorkeling adventure check to make sure your sunscreen doesn’t contain oxybenzone, a culprit in coral reef destruction. Oxybenzone damages coral reefs by inhibiting their ability to reproduce and making them more susceptible to bleaching.

Mistake #7: You don’t wear sunscreen year round

While UVB light decreases during the winter, UVA light can be problematic in any season. These rays can lead to premature skin aging and skin cancer even in the winter months. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day will ensure your skin is protected.

Dermatologist recommended

The dermatologists at Columbia Skin Clinic are serious about sunscreen. Find out their top rated sunscreens HERE.

For more information about dermatologist-recommended sunscreens or to book your skin cancer screening appointment, please contact one of our three Midlands locations.

Dangers of indoor tanning and healthy alternatives